Political fight over beach front property rights involve East Texas legislator

Frontal view on Christian's beach house. Source: Wayne Christian's office.
Frontal view on Christian's beach house. Source: Wayne Christian's office.

CENTER, TX (KTRE) - Like others who lost beach homes to Hurricane Ike, Representative Wayne Christian has only memories of summer vacations on Bolivar. "A decade and a half of the girls growing up. It was a part of our life. July 4ths, birthdays, summer church trips all gone," said Christian while viewing family photographs of his Crystal Beach vacation spot.

Now the Republican legislator from Center and other homeowners along Boliver Peninsula are ready to rebuild. According to Christian they must wait two years and watch the grass grow.    "(Jerry) Patterson, what he's wanting to do is take these houses away from us," said Christian while pointing to a row of homes along the beach front.  "And this (the beach front) hasn't changed. There is no loss of beach in this and that's the fallacy in this. People think that Hurricane Ike wiped the beach away. It did not," said Christian.

A temporary vegetation line determined by the Land Board runs through beach front properties, including Christians. "It's so many feet from the low tide level back here to here," illustrated Christian at a drawing board. "Four and a half feet above the lowest the water gets to. That's the temporary vegetation line." The line is where the Land Board believes vegetation will eventually return. It prohibits building for two years, allowing time for the natural vegetation to return. Then the permanent vegetation rule can be enforced.

According to Christian the amendment would allow homeowners to use the temporary line as a gauge to rebuild vacation homes and the economy now.  "I have 4 or 5 homeowners in Nacogdoches that are talking about wanting to know when we're going to be able to rebuild. We have in Lufkin, there are two contractors there, that were neighbors, that has about six or eight houses he's wanting to rebuild," said Christian.

Christian is criticized for supporting an amendment that's self serving. He takes exception to the judgement.  "The bill was not mine. It was carried by the legislators, but I darn sure support the freedom to protect my own property. It's a Constitutional right that the land commissioner evidently has forgotten." He's also accused of sneaking in the amendment during the last hours of the legislative session. Christian said it was on the table at least 4 weeks before the final vote.  "Let's let the people start rebuilding the area now and not wait two years for Jerry to find out if grass is going to grow. And that's the fight. And he came out with the idea of how dare Wayne Christian do it. I'm sorry, I guess I'm the example down there because I happen to have a beach house. But there are 20-30 miles of that front row beach line that this affects. "

"I will do everything in my power to ensure that if this becomes a law that there are no houses built in locations where they should not be built i guess if you know if that results in impeachment then i guess that's something that i'll have to deal with when that happens," Patterson said.

Christian says his conservative thinking is what got him a spot on Texas Monthly Magazine's, Ten Worst Legislator's list.   "I may be politically incorrect, but I fight for Constitutional rights." said Christian.

Christian is seeking bids so he can resume vacations at Crystal Beach and rebuild an area anxious to get back to normal. He's also called the Governor's office asking that the legislation be signed into law.

Patterson invites all Texas residents to offer their opinions on House Bill 770 to Governor Rick Perry's office by calling 512-463-2000.